Elon Musk: The Story of a Maverick

Elon Musk's successful career, personality, vision, and unconventional way of doing things make him one of the great inspirational leaders of the 21st century.
Susan Fourtané

At times, Elon Musk may appear controversial. He may spike long-lasting discussions on social media right after one of his multiple Tweets. The truth is, Elon Musk is one-of-a-kind. You can like him or not, agree with him or not. The truth is, Elon Musk is a maverick. 

Elon Reeve Musk founded his first company in 1995 when he was only 23 years old. Then he sold it for $307 million dollars when he was 28. He received $22 million dollars from the sale and became a millionaire. 

Rather than sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying life, Elon Musk savored his accomplishment and used the experience as the first brick that would build the Musk empire.

"If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it."- Elon Musk 

Quickly, a series of multiple companies emerged. From electric cars to solar energy, from underground tunnels on Earth to reusable space rockets and space tourism, from Artificial Intelligence and neural networks to a school for the Generation Alpha.

Elon Musk is not only changing this world as we know it with his vision into the future but he is about to create no less than a new world on Mars. Elon Musk will establish the first colony on the Red Planet, thus, making Earthlings a multi-planetary species. 

Elon Musk: A maverick 

Since a young age, Elon Musk's personality has been shaped by curiosity, determination, strong will, perseverance, vision into the future, critical thinking, and a strong desire to disrupt as many industries as he possibly can. 

"An engineer is the closest thing to a magician that exists in the real world." -Elon Musk

At the age of 10, Elon Musk developed an interest in computing. He learned computer programming using a manual and a Commodore VIC-20. At the age of 12, the young Musk sold the code of a BASIC-based video game he created for approximately $500. He called the video game Blastar to PC and Office Technology magazine. 

An avid reader since his childhood, Musk's reading included Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. He was severely bullied during his childhood to the point of being hospitalized after a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs. 

Raised in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk briefly attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada at the age of 17. In Canada, he attended Queen's University and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School and a bachelor's degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Elon Musk was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Energy Physics/Materials Science at Stanford University in California in 1995. However, he decided to launch his first company instead: Zip2 Corporation.

Musk had already held two internships in Silicon Valley in 1994, one at Pinnacle Research Institute, an energy storage start-up researching electrolytic capacitors for energy storage, and the second internship was at the Palo Alto-based start-up Rocket Science Games.

Elon Musk believes the world needs something different, and he has what it takes to provide the answers and materialize his ideas. Without a doubt, his hard work and strong will are going to take him to a place no human has gone before, his ultimate goal: Mars colonization. 

Elon Musk has transformed several industries. As a serial entrepreneur, he has founded and co-founded several companies that are changing the world. Musk is the founder, CEO, CTO, and chief designer of SpaceX, early investor CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc., founder of the Boring Company, co-founder of Neuralink, and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI. Elon Musk has the longest-tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer globally. 

His vision and the way he thinks about education are already changing the future of the younger Generation Alpha, the generation that one day will populate Mars. Each and every one of Elon Musk's companies and initiatives have the same goal: To change the world. He is a successful technology entrepreneur, an inventor, innovator, explorer, an industrial designer, a philanthropist, and an engineer. 

Reasons for Elon Musk's success include his strong personality, unbreakable perseverance, curiosity, critical thinking, analysis, and risk-taking. He mixes everything with a high dose of hard work without which everything else would be futile. 

Elon Musk is an engineer with a fascination for physics. His insatiable appetite for constantly and consistently reading and learning new things has helped him start and develop some of the world’s most ingenious and exciting enterprises. 

With no formal training in aeronautical engineering, Elon Musk has been able to create and lead his rocket science team at SpaceX. He took his aerospace company to the level of NASA and international space associations. His SpaceX company has even partnered with NASA. Elon Musk has accomplished what no space association or government has accomplished before.

Here we look at what Elon Musk has accomplished in each and every one of his companies. 

Elon Musk's first company: Zip2

Elon Musk, together with his brother Kimbal, founded Zip2 in 1995. Zip2 was a Web software company developed to create an Internet city guide complete with maps, directions, and yellow pages for the newspaper publishing industry. At the time, this was an innovative idea which happened almost a decade before Google Maps was created. 

Zip2's clients included The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. In 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307 million dollars. From this, Elon Musk received $22 million dollars for his seven percent share from the sale.

PayPal and X.com

paypal HQ
PayPal Headquarters in Silicon Valley, Source: Andrei Stanescu, iStock 

Elon Musk co-founded X.com in 1999 investing $10 million dollars from the sale of Zip2. X.com was a financial services company that allowed consumers and businesses to send money over the Internet or email. X.com merged with Confinity, which had a money transfer service called PayPal, and so the company was renamed PayPal in 2001.

Elon Musk was the largest shareholder of the company with 11.7 percent of PayPal's shares. PayPal revolutionized e-Commerce and changed the way financial transactions work. 

When eBay acquired PayPal in 2002, for $1.5 billion, Musk gained $165 million from the deal. Instead of doing what normal people do and go buying an island, retire, and spend the rest of his life enjoying life itself, he went on investing all his capital on Tesla to save the company. His intuition paid off. 

Elon Musk purchased the domain X.com from PayPal in July 2017. He said it had sentimental value for him, and the amount was not disclosed. The first name of his son with Grimes is X. Coincidence? Or perfect synchronization? 

Tesla Inc.: Fighting climate change

Tesla car
Tesla Model S electric semi-autonomous car at Tesla Amsterdam showroom in The Netherlands, Source: Susan Fourtané

Only an extraordinary risk taker can envision and achieve as much as Elon Musk in the course of his life. Elon Musk co-founded Tesla in 2003, he was an early investor of Tesla.

"Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change as the alternative is disaster." -Elon Musk

Tesla Inc. is dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars as well as battery products, and solar roofs.

Elon Musk personally oversees all product development, engineering, and design of all the company's products.

In February 2004, Musk led the Series A round of investment and joined Tesla's board of directors as its chairman. He assumed leadership of the company as CEO, and product architect at Tesla Inc. in 2008. 

His active role within the company let him oversee Roadster product design at a detailed level. His plan was to build sport cars, use the money from sales to build an affordable car, use the money to build an even more affordable car, and at the same time also provide zero-carbon emission electric power generation options. 

Following the plan, in 2008, Tesla built the Tesla Roadster. The company sold about 2.500 vehicles to 31 countries. This was the first serial production of all-electric cars to use lithium-ion battery cells. The sports car was capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds travelling nearly 250 miles between charges. 

With a stake in the company taken by Daimler and a strategic partnership with Toyota --Elon Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla-- Tesla Inc. launched its initial public offering in June 2010, raising $226 million.

Tesla sold electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and Mercedes A Class, and also to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. 

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The four-door Model S, the company's first electric sedan capable of covering 265 miles between charges, was delivered on June 22, 2012. The Model S was honored as the 2013 Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine. 

On February 9, 2012, Tesla unveiled its Model X, which was aimed at the SUV/minivan market. But the launch of the Model X  was delayed until September 2015. 

In 2014, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would make its technology patents available to be used by anyone in good faith. His intention was to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up the development of electric cars. "The unfortunate reality," he said, "is electric cars programs --or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons-- at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting  an average of far less than one percent of their total vehicle sales."

2016 was a busy year for Musk and Tesla. As of January 29, 2016, Elon Musk owned around 28.9 million Tesla shares, meaning he owned about 22 percent of the company by then. 

Also at the beginning of 2016, Elon Musk acquired Tesla.com domain name. The domain had been owned by Stu Grossman since 1992. Tesla's homepage was changed to that domain. 

Also in 2016, the more affordable Model 3 was unveiled, with a planned based price of $35,000 and initial deliveries in 2017. The $35,000-base Model 3 became available in February 2019. In March 2020, Tesla Model 3 became the world's best-selling electric car in automotive history with over 500,000 units delivered. 

Also in July 2016, Elon Musk announced his plan to create solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage. He wanted to expand the vehicle product line to address major segments including small SUV and pickup trucks, and develop a self-driving capability 10 times safer than manual via massive fleet learning. 

In July 2016, too, Tesla ended the partnership with Mobileye, and began developing their autopilot hardware and software in-house.   

In April 2017, Tesla Inc. became the most valuable American car manufacturer after announcing that it had surpassed General Motors in sales. The news ramped up production.

A great accomplishment for Tesla Energy was when in September 2017 Elon Musk signed a contract with the government of South Australia to install what at the time became the world's largest lithium-ion battery pack to help alleviate the state's energy blackouts.

The battery exceeded expectations in terms of both performance and return of investment (ROI). The installation was successfully completed in 100 days within the set schedule; otherwise, according to the arrangement, the installation would have been free. 

In the beginning, Tesla aimed to produce 5,000 new Model 3 cars per week by December 2017. However, Elon Musk pushed that goal back to March 2018. Finally, a new date was set to June 2019.

Tesla's delay was due to some production problems that the company was experiencing. Some industry experts questioned how long investors would remain patient with the process.

Those who know Elon Musk's modus operandi and infinite capacity to come up with last-minute solutions trusted that this was just a small stone on the road. 

“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it.”- Elon Musk

The news announced that Tesla was expected to fall short of first-quarter production forecasts.

It was also known that Elon Musk had pushed aside the head of engineering and had decided to personally oversee efforts in that division. Just as he had done many times before when his companies experience times of trouble. He was back to sleeping at the factory. 

In June, Elon Musk announced that Tesla was laying-off nine percent of its workforce. However, the production department would remain intact.

In an email to employees, Elon Musk explained his decision to eliminate some duplication of roles as an understandable way to cut costs. He admitted it was time to take serious steps toward turning a profit.

After the restructuring, Tesla announced that the company had met its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week by the end of June and another 2,000 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs.

Elon Musk made then another announcement with the unveiling of the new Tesla Semi and Roadster at the company's design studio. The Semi-truck was scheduled to enter production in 2019. The space grey electric truck boasts 500 miles of range as well as a battery and motors built to last 1 million miles.

In 2020, the new Tesla Roadster is expected to be one of the most popular sports cars. It will become the fastest production car ever made with its 0 to 60 time of 1.9 seconds.

As of 2019, Elon Musk has been the longest tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer in the world.

Tesla charger
Tesla charger, free to use for life by all Tesla car owners, at Tesla Amsterdam Showroom in The Netherlands, Source: Susan Fourtané

Tesla's Nevada Gigafactory, or Gigafactory 1

In 2014, Tesla announced that Nevada had been officially selected to build the first Tesla battery Gigafactory. The first phase of the diamond-shaped solar powered Gigafactory 1, a lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle sub-assembly factory was officially opened near Reno, Nevada on July 29, 2016. This was a Tesla-Panasonic partnership. 

The Gigafactory 1 houses approximately 5.3 million square feet of operational space across several floors. Elon Musk envisioned the Gigafactory to be the biggest building in the world. It is entirely powered by renewable energy sources and designed to be a net zero energy factory. The facility is primarily powered by solar energy.

Tesla's Buffalo, New York Gigafactory, or Gigafactory 2

In 2017, Tesla began production of solar cells and modules at Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York – a 1.2 million square-foot facility. In 2019, Tesla added new production lines in order to support electrical components for Supercharger and energy storage products. Tesla created nearly 800 jobs at Gigafactory 2. The company continues to ramp operations and production at the facility.

The 88-acre property located along the Buffalo River was originally a steel manufacturing site. It was transformed to produce solar panels and solar cells. Tesla secured Gigafactory 2 through its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016. 

In line with agreements with the State of New York, Tesla will create 5,000 clean energy jobs in the state over the course of 10 years, many of those in Buffalo, making the city a hub for sustainable innovation and advanced manufacturing. 

Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory, or Gigafactory 3

The Shanghai Gigafactory is Tesla's first large-scale factory outside The United States. In January 2019, Tesla CEO attended the incredible ceremony of the Shanghai Gigafactory. During the ceremony, Musk revealed new possibilities and strategies for the future of Tesla's first Chinese manufacturing plant.

The construction of the factory took place in the Lingang Industrial Zone of Shanghai. According to the Chinese government, this has been the most massive foreign investment Shanghai has seen in the field of manufacturing.

Elon Musk's aim was to build affordable cars for the city. However, Tesla planned to continue manufacturing pricier versions for global markets. “Shanghai Giga output is just for greater China, not North America. Affordable cars must be made on the same continent as customers,” he said

The production of the first cars at the Shanghai Gigafactory was achieved in under one year since the initial ground-breaking. 

During his visit to China in January 2019, Elon Musk met the Chinese premier Li Keqiang. As Musk expressed his profound admiration for China and his wishes to visit China on a regular basis, the Chinese premier said "We can issue you a Chinese green card if that helps."

Tesla's Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory, or Gigafactory 4

Berlin was the city chosen for the first European Gigafactory. Tesla has an assembly facility for the Model S and Model X in The Netherlands. The construction of the Gigafactory 4 began in 2020. Tesla Model Y production was set to begin in Berlin, Germany by 2021. Brexit prevented Tesla from building this Gigafactory in The United Kingdom. Elon Musk found that "Brexit made it too risky to put a Gigafactory in The U.K.

Tesla's Texas Gigafactory, or Gigafactory 5 

Austin, Texas, and Tulsa were the two main contenders for the new Gigafactory in The United States. Tesla's upcoming Cybertruck is going to be built in this factory as well as being a second site to build the Model Y small SUV, and Model 3, with the first vehicles coming out by the end of 2020.

The factory is going to create approximately 5,000 jobs and bring an investment of $1.1 billion. In July 2020, 75 happy Austin Tesla owners, members of Tesla Owners Club (TOC), paraded to celebrate Texas' new Gigafactory. The Texas Gigafactory is going to be the largest factory yet built on a 2,000-acre site (809 hectare).

Tesla plans to open the Texas Gigafactory for business in 2021. The opening is being touted as a victory for the Austin region as it will bring thousands of jobs to the area. At $97 million, Tesla's 2,100-acre Texas Gigafactory constitutes Tesla's best deal yet as it comes to around $46,190 per acre.

Immediately after the opening, the manufacturing of the Cybertruck begins production. 


Tesla cybertruck
All-electric Tesla Cybertruck/Source: Tesla 

The Tesla Cybertruck is an all-electric, battery-powered, light commercial vehicle launched by Tesla, Inc. 

In November 2019, Elon Musk claimed that 200,000 people had placed a deposit for the Tesla's Cybertruck, that was less than a week after the futuristic vehicle was revealed.

After revealing the Cybertruck, Musk said that the Cybertruck, which comes in three powertrain versions: with one, two, or three electric motors, would be the "last product unveiled for a while, but there will be some unexpected technology announcements next year." 

The Tesla Cybertruck, manufactured at Tesla's Texas Gigafactory, will be released in late 2021 with a starting price of $39,900. 

In 2021, Tesla first is releasing the single-motor RWD version. The dual-motor all-wheel and the tri-motor versions will be released a year later, in late 2022.  

Elon Musk, renewable energy, and SolarCity

solar city
Solar power plant in modern sustainable Solar City, Source: kynny/iStock

In 2006, Lyndon and Peter Rive --Elon Musk's cousins-- co-founded SolarCity after Musk provided the initial concept for the company and the financial capital. SolarCity quickly became the second largest provider of solar power systems in The United States, and this was accomplished in just about six years. 

In 2012, Elon Musk made an announcement saying that SolarCity and Tesla Inc. would collaborate. The goal was to use electric vehicle batteries to smooth the impact of rooftop solar panels on the power grid. The program went live in 2013. By then, SolarCity was a top company in The United States. 

Elon Musk's desire to promote and advance sustainable energy --in particular solar energy-- and products for a wider consumer base took a step forward when Tesla Inc. announced an all-stock deal purchase of SolarCity Corp.

In 2014, SolarCity advanced production facility began to be built in Buffalo, New York, in coordination with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute after acquiring Silevo, a maker of high-efficiency solar modules. Elon Musk said that this facility would triple the size of the largest solar plant existing in The United States. He went on saying that it would be "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world." 

In August 2016, Elon Musk closed a $2.6 billion dollar deal that solidified the combination of his Tesla electric car company and the solar energy company. By November 2016, Tesla Inc. acquired SolarCity; in December, SolarCity started hiring for the facility.

The factory was completed in 2017. The Tesla Gigafactory 2 is a photovoltaic (PV) cell factory, leased by Tesla subsidiary SolarCity in Buffalo, New York. 

According to a statement on Tesla's Website, solar and storage are at their best when they are combined. By merging Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) the company created fully integrated residential, commercial, and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored, and consumed. The motivation behind creating both Tesla and SolarCity has been Elon Musk's desire to help fight global warming through renewable energy.

The Buffalo facility employed about 800 workers by the end of 2018. However, the state of New York required SolarCity to employ a minimum of 1,450 workers at the facility by the end of April 2020, or face a $41.2 million penalty. In February 2020, SolarCity reported having over 1,500 workers in the facility.

SolarCity is one of the founding members of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a rooftop photovoltaic power station solar trade organization.

Elon Musk and SpaceX: There is no limit in the sky 

falcon 9, spaceX
SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) Headquarters; Falcon 9 rocket displayed in the front of the building, Source: Andrei Stanescu/iStock 

Elon Musk is the founder, lead designer, CTO, and CEO of SpaceX. Repeatedly, Musk has said the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity are based on his vision to change the world and help humanity.

"I care about the truth of things and try to understand the truth of things. If you're going to come with some solutions, then the truth is really important." - Elon Musk

Those goals include fighting global warming by generating and using sustainable energy, and lessening the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars, thus, making humanity multiplanetary. 

In May 2002, Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX as the company was traded, in Hawthorne, California. His goal was to make rockets for space travel more affordable, with the ultimate goal of creating a colony on Mars. 

He invested $100 million of his own early fortune on SpaceX. By 2016, Elon Musk's private trust held 54 percent of SpaceX stock, equivalent to 78 percent of voting shares.

In 2012, the Dragon spacecraft became the world's first commercial spacecraft with a mission to shuttle cargo between the International Space Station (ISS) and planet Earth. 

One of Elon Musk's greatest ambitions was to use the Dragon capsule to send humans to space. After succeeding in this, his goal is to send humans to Mars to colonize the Red Planet.

In April 2016, Musk historically launched and re-landed a Falcon 9 rocket. 

In 2017, SpaceX unveiled the design of the company's next-generation launch vehicle and spacecraft system: The Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). The BFR would support all SpaceX launch service provider capabilities with a single set of very large vehicles, including Earth-orbit, Lunar-orbit, interplanetary missions, and intercontinental passenger transport on Earthwith most long-distance journeys anywhere on Earth in under one hour

At a press conference in September 2018, Elon Musk explained the updated design of the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). The Big Falcon Rocket totally replaces the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon vehicles in the 2020s.

In March 2018, at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Elon Musk announced that he hoped to have the BFR ready for short flights in early 2019. In April 2018, the company announced that SpaceX would construct a facility at the Port of Los Angeles.

The facility is going to be used to build and house the BFR. The port property presented an ideal location for SpaceX due to the size of the rocket. The spacecraft will only be movable by a large barge or ship when completed. 

In 2020, SpaceX is talking to government officials about building a major manufacturing facility in the Port of Los Angeles. The new rocket factory would build SpaceX's massive, next-generation rocket called Starship.

SpaceX plans on flying a Japanese billionaire around the Moon in 2023.

Elon Musk and The Boring Company: Underground tunnels to reduce traffic congestion born from being stuck in traffic 

underground tunnel
 Underground tunnel potentially reduce traffi, Source: Magu Directors/iStock

Whatever Elon Musk tweets, it becomes a piece of writing, which perhaps he finds amusing. But also, it may become a company. So, once when he was stuck in traffic in December 2016, he used the time to tweet: "I'm going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging." His thought which was born out of frustration became his venture, named The Boring Company

The Boring Company had a test dig in February 2017 on the SpaceX property in Los Angeles since such construction requires no permits.  

By the end of 2018, The Boring Company (TBC) had approved plans for construction of operational tunnels in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Chicago.

Musk initially tweeted that his digging and tunnel company The Boring Company would not just transport cars from one end of town to another. The cars would travel into residential areas as well, "all the way into your garage," Musk said. 

In February 2020, The Boring Company released images of a working Prufrock, a tunnel boring machine (TBM).

Neuralink and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Downloading directly to your brain  

neural network
Neural network, ktsimage/iStock

Neuralink Corporation is a neurotechnology company founded in 2016 by Elon Musk and others. The firm was first publicly reported in 2017. Neuralink, headquartered in San Francisco, develops implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs).

"We are, all of us, already cyborgs," - Elon Musk

After receiving $158 million in funding --including $100 million from Elon Musk-- and with a staff of 90 employees, Neuralink was officially launched on July 16, 2019. Several high-profile neuroscientists were already hired by Neuralink; the company continues hiring engineers.

Neuralink has been working on a sewing-machine-like device capable of implanting very thin threads of 4 to 6 μm in width into the brain. 

In the short-term, Neuralink aims to make devices that initially would treat serious brain disease as well as brain damage that was caused by a stroke. In the long-term, the company's ambitious goal is to develop and use the technology for human enhancement, also known as transhumanism.  

Part of Elon Musk's inspiration for the creation of Neuralink was a science-fiction concept called Neural Lace that is part of the fictional universe in Scottish author Iain M. Banks' series of novels The Culture.

At the time of the launch in July 2019, Neuralink announced that the company would start experiments with humans in 2020. 

Elon Musk's experimental schools for his children and other children: Ad Astra School and Astra Nova School

ad astra
Image taken from page 274 of 'Finland in the Nineteenth Century" by Finnish authors. Illustrated by Finnish artists in 1894, Source: Flickr/British Library 

Ad Astra School 

In Latin, Ad Astra means to the stars. In 2014, Elon Musk's non-profit, private, experimental Ad Astra School opened quietly on the SpaceX campus in California. Musk opened the private Ad Astra School shortly after he pulled his five sons from Los Angeles' Mirman School, a K-8 school for gifted children. Musk thought the school was not teaching the skills he believes children will need in their future.

"It's important to teach problem solving." -Elon Musk 

Elon Musk hired former Mirman's teacher, Joshua Dahn, (video) to run Ad Astra. Dahn was one of his sons' teachers. Dahn's own thinking on how education today should be was in line with that of Musk's. 

According to an unreported document filed with The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Musk founded Ad Astra to "exceed traditional school metrics on all relevant subject matter through unique project-based learning experiences."

In the school's first year, the five Musk children (twins born in 2004 and triplets born in 2006) made up the student body together with a few children of SpaceX employees.

By 2018, the Ad Astra School was made up of over 30 children aged 7 to 14. The curriculum was heavy on science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), ethics and roboethics, problem solving, and critical thinking. 

At Ad Astra, students discussed the ethical and political implications of Artificial Intelligence. They also worked with and built technologies such as robots and weather balloons.

Spots were limited to the children of SpaceX employees, and they were by invitation only. The admission process was kept secret. The unconventional, future-oriented school differed from traditional schools in many ways; one of them was that there were no grades. Students discuss the ethical and political implications of artificial intelligence. They also work with and build technologies such as robots and weather balloons. 

Ad Astra School was free for all the selected children, with Elon Musk picking up the whole tab which included whiteboard walls, a MacBook laptop for every student, and food trucks for after-school sessions, and of course tuition, 

According to the IRS document above, Elon Musk gave Ad Astra $475,000 in both 2014 and 2015.

Astra Nova School  

In Latin, Astra Nova means new star. Astra Nova is an experimental school in Los Angeles, California for imaginative, kind, and academically motivated students between the ages of 8 and 14. Astra Nova School quietly started in 2016 following its predecessor, Ad Astra School

While Ad Astra School started as an in-person private school in SpaceX's premises for Elon Musk's children and children from SpaceX's employees, Astra Nova School is based on online learning, classes take place on Thursdays only, and the virtual school is open to global students. 

The virtual institution's principal is Joshua Dahn. The application for admission to the 2020-2021 online classes includes a short video response to a critical-thinking problem titled The Lake Conundrum (video). The situation deals with manufacturing, pollution, and corruption. 

Astra Nova School was incorporated as a traditional for-profit business filed with the California Secretary of State's office. Principal Joshua Dahn, who is also co-founder of Astra Nova School, has said that Elon Musk, who helped with the initial funding, is no longer involved. 

Students who are admitted pay $7,500 for the full year. 

Elon Musk and Mars colonization: Making humanity multiplanetary by 2040

spaceX, Mars
 Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster and Starman wearing a SpaceX suit, Source: Wikimedia Commons/image donated by SpaceX

Elon Musk's ultimate goal is to colonize Mars. In 2011, Elon Musk said that he hopes to send humans to Mars within 10 to 20 years. According to Ashlee Vance's biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk stated that he wants to establish a Mars colony by 2040 with a population of 80,000 humans. 

Due to the lack of oxygen in Mars' atmosphere, all transportation would have to be electric including electric aircraft, electric cars, electric trains, Hyperloop. 

In June 2016, Elon Musk said that the first uncrewed flight of the larger Interplanetary Starship was planned for departure to Mars in 2022. The first crewed ITS Mars flight would follow in 2024. 

Elon Musk started the SpaceX Mars Program in order to develop and facilitate the colonization of Mars. The central piece of the program is the SpaceX Starship, a fully reusable space vehicle under development since 2018. 

The tentative timeline from November 2016 onwards included three missions to Mars prior to the first possible flight to Mars in 2022 was as follows: 

  • 2018: Initial SpaceX Mars mission 

  • 2020: Second preparatory mission

  • 2022: Third uncrewed preparatory mission 

  • 2024: First crewed flight to Mars with about a dozen humans, according to Elon Musk's optimistic planning 

In June 2020, Elon Musk shared a photo of SpaceX's Starship rocket tanks, which are the tanks that will assist in sending the Starship rocket to the Moon.

As of August 2020, none of the planned Mars missions have started yet. One of the rockets that could be used for a Mars mission will be first used and tested for a Moon mission. According to Musk, this might happen in 2021 when NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 is scheduled to launch in 2021 with four astronauts for the mission. 

Elon Musk: Family, relationships, and children  

Elon Reeve Musk was born to a Canadian mother and a South African father on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. Elon holds citizenship from South Africa, Canada (1989), and The United States (2002). 

His mother, Maye Musk, is a Canadian actress, model, and dietician. His father, Errol Musk, is a South African engineer. His parents divorced when he was 10 years old. 

Elon has a younger brother, Kimbal Musk, born in 1972. Kimbal is an entrepreneur, restaurateur, chef, venture capitalist, and environmentalist. He owns The Kitchen Restaurant Group, a family of community restaurant concepts.

A younger sister born in 1974, Tosca Musk, is a filmmaker and founder of Musk Entertainment. She has produced and directed several movies, and is CEO and co-founder of the OTT streaming platform Passionflix, focusing on bringing best-selling romance novels to the screen. 

Elon Musk first married Canadian author Justine Wilson in 2000. They were both students at Ontario's Queen's University. They separated in 2008. 

With ex-wife Justine Wilson, Elon Musk has five sons: Twins Griffin and Xavier born in 2004, and triplets Damian, Kai, and Saxon born in 2006. Their five sons were conceived through in-vitro fertilization. Musk and Wilson share custody of all their five sons. Elon Musk and Justine Wilson's first son, Nevada Alexander Musk, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2002, when he was only 10 weeks old.

In 2008, Elon Musk began dating English actress Talulah Riley. They married in 2010, split in 2012, and married each other again in 2013. They finally got divorced in late 2016. 

In 2017, Elon Musk got involved with American actress Amber Heard in an on-off relationship. They split-up after one year.

Elon Musk began dating Canadian musician, singer, composer, and visual artist Claire Elise Boucher (born on March 17, 1988), known professionally as Grimes. The couple revealed they were dating in May 2018, at the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

On January 8, 2020, Grimes announced she was pregnant and gave birth to their son on May 4, 2020. Musk and Grimes initially named their son X Æ A-12 (pronounced /ˈɛks.æʃˌeɪ.twɛlv/ EKS-ash-AY-twelv or /ˈɛks.æʃˌaɪ/ EKS-ash-EYE). Since then, a series of changes followed to comply with some imposed societal rules about how they should name their own child.  

The name was deemed illegal under California law, because it contained characters that are not in the modern English alphabet. The couple then changed it to X Æ A-XII. 

Æ (æ) is not a letter in the modern English alphabet (minuscule: æ) It is a character formed from the letters a and e. It was originally a ligature representing the Latin diphthong ae before having been promoted to the full status of a letter in languages including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese. It was also used in Old Swedish before being changed to ä.

So, the child was eventually named X AE A-XII Musk, with X as a first name and AE A-XII as a middle name. Perhaps, Musk also envisions a future where children are all given names which they can later on decide if they want to keep, or change it to something else they choose, following a right to individual and personal choice.

Æ (minuscule: æ) is a character formed from the letters a and e, originally a ligature representing the Latin diphthong ae. It has been promoted to the full status of a letter in some languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese. It was also used in Old Swedish before being changed to ä. 

Elon Musk’s Non-profit: The Elon Musk Foundation

Elon Musk founded and is chairman of the Musk Foundation. The Musk Foundation is dedicated to providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas. In addition, the Foundation provides support to many other initiatives. 

In 2010, The Musk Foundation in collaboration with SolarCity donated a 25 kW solar power system to the South Bay Community Alliance's hurricane response center in Coden, Alabama.

In 2011, Musk donated $250,000 toward a solar power project in Sōma, Japan, a city devastated by a tsunami. 

In 2014, Musk donated $1 million toward the construction of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park.  

The Foundation donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute in 2015 to run a global research program with a focus on keeping Artificial Intelligence beneficial to humanity. 

In 2018, Musk donated over $480,000 to install new water fountains with filtration systems for access to clean water at all Flint, Michigan schools which have provided free, safe drinking water to approximately 30,000 children since 2019. 

In 2019, Musk donated $1 million to a tree planting initiative to plant 20 million trees in collaboration with Arbor Day Foundation. 

In 2020, Elon Musk donated ventilators built by Tesla to third-world countries in need to help those suffering during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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